A faint cry rent the stillness of the night.

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ArmadilloAbcd

Senior Member
Italian
Hello,

I would like to ask you whethere the collocation rend + stillness in the following sentence

A faint cry rent the stillness of the night

is common in English or falls within the scope of poetic license.


Thank you in advance for your answer!
 
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  • grubble

    Senior Member
    British English
    Not poetic licence but certainly literary and old-fashioned. We would certainly not use the phrase in everyday conversation. The style is similar to that of, say, Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849)
     

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'm not sure if 'rent' is the correct conjugation of 'to rend'. I've a feeling it might be 'rended', which would be a shame, because what you've written sounds very good to me otherwise.
     

    ArmadilloAbcd

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Thank you very much to you all !

    Actually, the sentence is taken from Agatha Christie Partners in Crime, by Agatha Christie. It was published in 1929.

    I think that the difference between a '-t' suffixes and a '-ed' ones - when such verbs as burnt / burned etc. are concerned - is that
    '-t' belong to British English while '-ed' is American English.

    Thank you very much Grubble! When you say "Not poetic licence but certainly literary and old-fashioned" do you mean that contemporary writers would not resort to that collocation (rend + stillness)?
     

    grubble

    Senior Member
    British English
    Actually, the sentence is taken from Agatha Christie Partners in Crime, by Agatha Christie. It was published in 1929.

    1. I think that the difference between a '-t' suffixes and a '-ed' ones - when such verbs as burnt / burned etc. are concerned - is that
    '-t' belong to British English while '-ed' is American English.
    ...
    1. That is true but, in this case it does not work.

    Example

    "The exercise was badly spelt." and "The exercise was badly spelled."

    Both spelt and spelled are single-syllable words. I personally pronounced them exactly the same.


    In the case of rent and rended, this is not the case. This is because rent has one syllable but rend-ed has two.
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    do you mean that contemporary writers would not resort to that collocation (rend + stillness)?
    I can't aswer for ArmadilloAbcd but I would expect the older amongst us to be familiar with this usage. There is no real reason why writers should not use it.

    I have not come across this use of rent often recently. I might use it, if a suitable occasion arose.

    GF..

    Search engines give many more hits on the use of "rent(d) the air" that I had expected....
     

    ArmadilloAbcd

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Thank you very much grubble!

    That was exactly my point ( - when such verbs as burnt / burned etc. are concerned - )

    By the way, do you think a contemporary novelist would still resort to the collocation rend + stillness?
     

    grubble

    Senior Member
    British English
    2. When you say "Not poetic licence but certainly literary and old-fashioned" do you mean that contemporary writers would not resort to that collocation (rend + stillness)?
    I see poetic licence as a breaking of the "rules" by poets in order to surprise us and expand our vision of the world.

    Example

    A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20081004141232AA3XPZL

    We all know that trees don't literally pray to God.

    On the other hand "A faint cry rent the stillness..." is just a fancy way of saying "A faint cry broke the silence...."

    I would say that "to rend" is rarely used in modern English and "to rend the stillness/silence" has somewhat passed its sell-by date, having been used by countless authors.
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    I'd agree with grubble. One of the few instances in which you might still meet the verb "rend" (meaning "tear" or "break") in non-poetic parlance is in the phrase "heart-rending" (and you could also say "heart-breaking :tick:", but not "heart-tearing" :cross:).

    For example: "heart-rending pictures of starving children", "heart-rending appeals from people who lost everything in the floods".
     

    ArmadilloAbcd

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I do apologise my absent-mindedness.

    Having focused on the collocation rend + stillness, I merely quoted by memory the beginning of the sentence; which has resulted in the deplorable mistake of replacing that low moan by that faint cry. :rolleyes:

    The actual sentence is:

    [...] that low moan rent the stillness of the night ...which solves the inconsistency se16teddy so cleverly pointed to!
     
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    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I am feeling confused, possibly because I don't know why the question is being asked. Where does this "actual sentence" come from? And why is it so important? Perhaps you are translating. I don't think it's 'poetic/ literary licence', especially if it's taken from Agatha Christie and I wouldn't use it myself because I think it's more than a 'collocation': it's more like a cliche to my mind.
    It sounds like some famous quote that's come into generally accepted but very limited use, not everyday English, but perhaps that impression is deceptive and comes simply from the rhythm of the phrase. Maybe I associate it with the St James' Bible, or maybe it's Shakespearian, but 'rend/rent' is a pretty strong verb as well as not being in everyday use in modern English; it suggests not only a violent action but even a destructive, screechy sort of noise, such as that made by deliberately ripping a length of fabric. There's a feeling of violence associated with 'rend/rent'.

    I am not convinced by 'low noises' 'rending the night', unless the night is extraordinarily quiet, such as those in the depths of the countryside. We live about 100 yards from a busy suburban two lane main road and bus route. We are not normally aware of the traffic even in the night; although we hear the Emergency Services' sirens, they do not 'rend the night'. The recent screams of mating foxes sure did "rend the night".

    Hermione
     
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    ArmadilloAbcd

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hello HG,

    Thank you for your reply!

    Let me comment on it

    I am feeling confused, possibly because I don't know why the question is being asked.

    Where does this "actual sentence" come from? Partners in Crime, by Agatha Christie. (by the way, was actual the right adjective? I used it because the first sentence I kept quoting was not correct)

    And why is it so important? Perhaps you are translating. Pretty good sleuth you are!

    I don't think it's 'poetic/ literary licence', especially if it's taken from Agatha Christie and I wouldn't use it myself because I think it's more than a 'collocation': it's more like a cliche to my mind.
    That's unbelievable!!! That book was written precisely to poke fun at crime novel clichés! I did not twig that sentence too was written to this end!

    It sounds like some famous quote that's come into generally accepted but very limited use, not everyday English, but perhaps that impression is deceptive and comes simply from the rhythm. Maybe I associate it with the St James' Bible, or maybe it's Shakespearian, but 'rend/rent' is a pretty strong verb; it suggests not only a violent action but even a destructive, screechy sort of noise, such as that made by deliberately ripping a length of fabric. There's a feeling of violence associated with 'rend/rent'.

    I do agree, a low moan is not screechy at all!

    I am not convinced by 'low noises' 'rending the night', unless the night is extraordinarily quiet, such as those in the depths of the countryside.
    Actually the scene is set on the grounds of a secluded manor, as this quote shows:

    "They found the place at last, a big rambling house, surrounded by deserted grounds, with a swift mill stream running behind the house."Dismal sort of abode,' said Tommy. 'It gives me the creeps, [...]


    We live about 100 yards from a busy suburban two lane main road. We are not normally aware of the traffic even in the night; although we hear the Emergency Services' sirens, they do not 'rend the night'. The recent screams of mating foxes sure did "rend the night.".

    I see what you mean. Yet, the main characters here are straining their ears for any sound that might come from inside the manor. Perhaps, in such a situation even a low moan can rend the stillness of the night.

    Thank you again for you post!
     
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